Best Awards speeches

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featured-imageWhen it comes to awards season, there are a lot of things that nominees need to worry about:, and which after-parties they’re going to attend. But the most important thing on their minds is probably whether or not to prepare an acceptance speech in case they end up taking home an award. After all, too unprepared and they’ll let their emotions get the best of them, but too over-prepared and they’ll come off as arrogant.

A perfect speech should be efficient, funny, and poignant, and the most iconic speeches of the last 20 years perfectly illustrate the do’s and don’ts of accepting awards. Whether they’re irreverent, focused on their family, or team up with a friend for a quick sketch, these winners won more than just a golden statue — hearts of fans everywhere.

1. Merritt Wever, Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy at the 2013 Emmys
Some acceptance speeches can leave the winner rambling on and on, high on adrenaline and the thrill of achieving and lifelong dream. But every so often, people prefer to keep things short and sweet, like Merritt Wever did with her two-line speech in 2013. It worked to her advantage, though, as everyone who hadn’t heard of her before was instantly charmed by her refreshing nature… and her ability to keep the show on time.

2. Meryl Streep, Best Actress at the 2012 Oscars
There’s no actor currently working who more embodies the Academy Awards than Meryl Streep, who holds the record for the most Oscar nominations of all time. So, when she won her third award for The Iron Lady, she took the chance to poke fun at her golden reputation: “When they called my name, I could hear half of America going ‘Oh, no. Why her again?’ But… whatever.” Take notes, actors everywhere.

3. Kanye West, Best Rap Album at the 2005 Grammys
Long before he made headlines for interrupting people at awards shows, Yeezy celebrated his very first Grammy win with a speech that summed up everything that people love (and hate) about him. A heartfelt speech celebrating his new lease on life? Check. A touching tribute to his mother? Of course. An unexpected pop culture reference? Yep. The greatest closing line in the history of award speeches? You better believe it. Never change, ‘Ye.

4. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Best Original Screenplay at the 1997 Oscars
Damon and Affleck weren’t always the critically acclaimed superstars that the public now knows them as. In fact, back in 1997, they were two best friends from Boston who made a little movie that won an Academy Award, and it shows in their speech, which starts out flustered and builds to an adorably manic crescendo, with Damon and Affleck shouting over each other to ensure that they mention everyone important to them, especially their mothers.

5. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Best Actress in a Comedy at the 2012 Emmys
Part of the reason to watch the Emmys every year is to see what brilliant stunt Amy Poehler and the other Best Actress in a Comedy nominees have cooked up that year. But Poehler’s greatest achievement of all might have been her simplest yet; she traded speeches with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who then found herself thanking the cast and crews of both Veep and Park and Recreation. It really wasn’t a shame that JLD won.

6. Sam Smith, Record of the Year at the 2015 Grammys
Proving that it’s never too late for someone to win the breakup, Sam Smith took some time out of accepting his fourth(!) award of the night to thank one very special person: “I want to thank the man who this record is about, who I fell in love with last year, for breaking my heart, because you got me four Grammys!” Want some ice for that burn, Sam’s ex?

7. Taylor Swift, Best Female Video at the 2009 VMAs
The moment seen round the world — and now a full-blown pop culture phenomenon — showcases that sometimes it’s not what you say during your speech, it’s what other people say. Once Kanye West hit the stage to interrupt Swift’s flustered speech, and introduce the phrase “Imma let you finish” into the public lexicon, history was made, for better or for worse. Luckily, Beyoncé let Swift finish her speech later in the night, so that the country superstar would still get to enjoy her big moment.

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